Last December we published Material Conditions, a set of eight commissioned books exploring what it means and takes to be a professional creative practitioner. Inspired by the title of a behind-the-scenes blog post which followed, we’ve added a new chapter to the series, continuing a discussion which seems ever more relevant in the current climate.
Material Conditions: Epilogue is both a companion to those books – for those who read it, for the artists involved – and, as a pleasant paradox, an introduction for those who are not familiar with them. Five of the original contributors – Sarah Butler, Jane Prophet, Karla Brunet, Janet Owen Driggs & Jules Rochielle and Ruth Maclennan – have created new pieces for this publication, as they look back on the series, reflecting on their book and those by the other artists. Far from mere commentary, these responses are works in their own right, and are as poetic and profound as the initial eight books.
It’s also the first publication to launch the Periodical, to suggest the kind of iterative and experimental forms we hope to see being made and shared with bookleteer. As Giles stated eloquently in his ‘manifesto of sorts’, we’re striving for publishing as conversation; despite the finality of its title, this book can be seen as only the most recent part of a process. Here’s hoping for more.
An eccentric monthly publication for an era of eclectic exploration
More and more beautiful, thought-provoking and inspiring eBooks are being created with bookleteer all the time so, with a nod to such illustrious forebears as William Hogarth, Joseph Addison, Jonathan Swift, Laurence Sterne and Charles Dickens we’re creating the Periodical, a regular monthly publication to share some of the best examples – from the most beautifully designed, illustrated and written to the most experimental uses of bookleteer, its API and what can be done with the format. Update : check out the new bookleteer Library page to browse what people have made.
For a small monthly or one-off annual subscription (see below), you can receive by post a different printed eBook each month crowdsourced from bookleteer. Our target is to launch the Periodical with at least 100 subscribers in October 2012, selecting and printing a new eBook each month for distribution. Whilst we build up the subscriptions we’ll be sending subscribers a choice eBook every month selected from among those we’ve previously printed for projects such as Professor Starling’s Expedition, Material Conditions, City As Material, As It Comes, Agencies of Engagement and others.
What Will Subscribers Receive? The Periodical will be a monthly delight landing on your doorstep – you can expect consistent eccentricity and eclecticism in our choices. We will be seeking out the most extraordinary and unusual eBooks created and shared on bookleteer. Some will be selected by us at Proboscis, others will selected by invited curators and from time to time we’ll invite subscribers to vote for their favourite eBook to be printed and sent out as the monthly periodical. Anyone who wants to take part can contribute a book for consideration for the Periodical by signing up to bookleteer, then making and sharing an eBook. Each month we’ll post on the blog about what we’ve chosen and why – but only after we’ve sent it out, so the subscribers have the pleasure of an unexpected arrival landing on their doorstep.
To kickstart the Periodical we’re inviting a number of our friends, colleagues, fellow travellers and others whom we admire to explore using bookleteer themselves and to create some new publications with it that will seed the initial pool of publications from which we choose the first few issues. We’ll announce more about these soon.
To complement the crowdsourced eBooks, we are also seeking sponsors to help us commission new experimental and imaginative publications using bookleteer. These will be printed and distributed to subscribers as well as shared digitally on bookleteer for all. We’re looking for sponsors who see the opportunity that bookleteer and the Periodical offer for commissioning exciting new experiments in publishing – sharing new ideas, new knowledge and experiences in multiple ways to people all over the world. They might be themed series in themselves (following on from our previous series such as Material Conditions, City As Material, Transformations, Short Work, Liquid Geography, Species of Spaces, Performance Notations) or simply a one-off commission. *** Please contact me for details of sponsorship opportunities.
Subscribing to the Periodical
You don’t need to use bookleteer or be signed up to subscribe and subscriptions from organisations and institutions are very welcome (email us with a purchase order to subscribe). The Periodical will be a great way to tap into the creativity generated with bookleteer, having some of its best creations delivered to your door.
Subscribers will also receive a 10% discount on any Short Run printing orders of their own (recouping their subscription by just ordering a minimum 25 copies each of 4 of their own eBooks).
Here’s two more books created with bookleteer which have recently been published with our Short Run Printing service.
‘We Are All Food Critics: The Reviews’ was printed for Soho Parish Primary School, so that every child who wrote a review for the Soho Food Feast 2012 could have their own copy and show off their contribution to this beaut of a book. Read more about it here.
‘Don’t Stare At Me’ is a touching book created by Joyce Majiski, documenting a community art project she and Julie Robinson undertook with the Yukon Association for Community Living’s Ynklude group.
Don’t forget: we’ve just slashed the cost of A6 printed books between 30%-50%, and our minimum print run is now just 25 copies. Keep at it bookleteers!
Greetings, bookleteers. Thought you might like to see two books which have been published recently using our Short Run Printing Service.
Axis Design Architects have used bookleteer once again, this time for ‘Community Consultation & Neighbourhood Planning’, which showcases their work with residents during design processes (they even mention using our blank Storycubes during workshops!) as well as ‘BIM and the Affordable Passivhaus’, detailing a recent collaborative project.
Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination have also created this lovely book, entitled ’37 Shadows: Listening to children’s stories from the woods’ – a collection of stories gathered from class trips to a local park.
If you’re thinking of using bookleteer to create your own books, we’ve just slashed the cost of A6 printed books between 30%-50%, and our minimum print run is now just 25 copies. Check out the price estimator to see how much it would cost you. Get cracking!
Most writers have one or two trusted readers-of-drafts, critical friends who are relied on to make suggestions and offer that gentle critique that we didn’t know we needed. And the closer we get to conventional publication, the more likely we are to find ourselves working with an editor who scrutinizes our text for errors, ambiguities, sloppiness and – horror of horrors – breaks with convention. With the publication of my essay on picnic and community, published using Bookleteer last month, I had the chance to reflect on the experience of ‘doing without’ an editor. It was stimulating but also a little scary.
In the summer of 2011, I needed to take a decision about finalising and publishing the work. Choosing Bookleteer presented me with a new option: it meant I could go all the way to publication without any editorial oversight.
Picnic was an unfunded project: no client, no defined audience, no expectations, no responsibilities. That may seem liberating but it also means no feedback, no reassurance, no confirmation. I kept the text to myself (apart from sharing it necessarily with my collaborator, the artist Gemma Orton) at the obvious risk of missing out on potentially valuable guidance, having mistakes spotted, and being seen as arrogant.
The key justification for me was that to submit to editorial control would have been a crass betrayal of one of the essay’s themes. The essay contrasts picnic with formal meals, it contrasts organisation with networking, and disorder with order, as a way of exploring our tendency to idealise community in structured, formal terms. I felt that by submitting to the convention of editing – a fundamentally conservative process – I would have contradicted that theme in a rather feeble way.
I was also aware that Picnic challenges people’s expectations, because it doesn’t fit easily into any recognised genre. An editor might have made valiant, corrosive efforts to turn it into this or that.
I don’t wish to imply that the editorial process is either redundant or pointless, but it may be that many writers come to be over-dependent on editors. Perhaps this is to do with perceived differences between non-fiction and fiction. Few musical composers or visual artists would expect to cede so much influence over what they do. On the whole, editing is a process for confirming convention and reinforcing norms, which may not always be what’s needed. By making the publication process realisable, it was Bookleteer that empowered me to remain consistent to the theme without compromise.
Here at Proboscis we are very excited by the quality of the new PPOD service we’re offering users of bookleteer, but we also recognise that there are still economic barriers to people wanting to break into publishing their own eBooks & StoryCubes. Despite our ground-breaking service offering low-run printing (from only 50 copies per title, much lower than the industry standard of 500 or 1,000 copies) this still requires bookleteers to pay up front for printed versions of their eBooks & StoryCubes. Our aim is to open up publishing with bookleteer by removing as many of the traditional barriers as possible.
With bookleteer you can currently create shareable eBooks and StoryCubes that you can send or allow people to download anywhere in the world at no cost; you can also have high quality professionally printed & bound versions made. Our pricing for this has been set to make it as affordable as possible, so that users can sell on their printed eBooks/StoryCubes and add their own profit margin. But, for many people, the cost of printing even just 50 copies might be more than they can afford or justify on the basis of anticipated (or hoped for) future sales.
In trying to resolve the puzzle of how to allow people to use bookleteer not just to create things which they pay for, but which also allows them to earn money from their creativity, we’re now researching a concept for a crowdfunded marketplace. What we’d like to implement in the future (possibly in the beta version later this year) would be a bookleteer marketplace where the users can submit their eBooks and StoryCubes (either individually or a series / collections). We imagine that the user will set the retail price of the publication, add an ISBN number (if they have one) and set a target number of sales to be achieved before the publication will be printed via our PPOD service.
The marketplace would be public for anyone to browse and, using some kind of crowdfunding platform, pledge to buy a copy or copies of the eBooks/StoryCubes. Payments from buyers would be held in escrow until the sales threshold is reached and the printing and shipping of the publication triggered. At that point we would transfer the creator’s share of the sales to them (minus our printing & shipping costs). If there aren’t enough pledges within a given time frame to trigger the printing, then the buyer’s money would be returned to them. This approach, also called threshold pledging, would reduce the risk to both creator and buyer.
We are just at the very beginning of developing this concept and its going to require more resources and expertise than are currently available to us to actually turn into a reality – however we would really like to know what other people think of this. We’d love to hear from anyone with experience in building crowdfunding systems or using crowdfunding platforms to see if this is possible and what the average ratios are of successful to unsuccessful targets being reached.
We’d like to think that this idea could make it possible for anyone to be able to create a publication and have it professionally printed and bound without having to find the money to do so up front. With bookleteer they would be able to make the Diffusion eBook PDFs available for people to make their own handmade versions, then choose to buy the PPOD version (thereby economically supporting the creator). In this way we could create a whole new generation of publishers, crossing economic as well as cultural divides, allowing more people to find different ways of sharing their ideas, stories, knowledge, artworks – whatever they value and wish to share.